Cirrus co-founder and chairman Dale Klapmeier said the company plans to spool up production of its new SF50 Vision single-engine jet to 125 units per year after the aircraft is certified in 2015. Klapmeier said the company is exploring various options to expand its production capacity to meet demand, including the foreign manufacture of components.
Cirrus, which currently counts 550 deposits for its jet, flew its first SF50 production prototype on March 24. That aircraft will be joined by two other test aircraft later this year. Cirrus has been flying a nonconforming prototype since 2008. Price remains pegged at less than $2 million. The SF50 will be available with optional weather radar, a “relief station” and upgraded interiors. “Aerodynamically, this is the final product,” said Klapmeier.
The SF50 will feature an emergency whole-aircraft parachute that will deploy from the nose. The canopy assemblies will be dropped from a helicopter attached to weighted barrels as part of the testing process.
The next two production prototypes are nearing final assembly. One aircraft will primarily be used for systems validation, while the other will be used for function and reliability testing.
Cirrus executives reported strong sales for the latest generation of its SR22 single-engine piston, with 276 deliveries in 2013 and anticipated sales of more than 300 SR22s this year. The company delivered 140 aircraft through the first half of this year; last year was Cirrus’s best sales year since 2008.
This year, Cirrus is offering a reconfigurable sensor platform aircraft, hoping to enter into the government/special-mission market. The company also announced a new variant of the SR22, the Accelaero, which will feature all-digital backup gauges from Mid-Continent, eliminating the vacuum backup standby gauges on the lower bolster of the instrument panel. Deliveries of that aircraft begin late this year.
Meanwhile, Cirrus president Pat Waddick said the company is bringing its parts distribution in-house to “take better care of customers” via Cirrus Direct and a new e-commerce site. It also is upgrading customer pilot-training options through its “Cirrus Approach” program.
Waddick said Cirrus Approach consists of making customers more aware of the aircraft parachute system and its capabilities, bringing quality training partners to customers, providing engaging training content–including video modules–and giving Cirrus pilots incentives to learn. Cirrus received the Joseph Nall safety award last year from the International Air and Transportation Safety Bar Association. Cirrus Approach “is the most important thing we have done as a company,” Waddick said. He noted the significant reduction in fatal Cirrus accidents per 100,000 hours flown since 2003, dropping over the decade from 2.64 to 1.01 last year and 0.29 year-to-date.
MINNESOTA JURY AWARDS ALAN KLAPMEIER $10 MILLION
In March, a Minnesota jury awarded Cirrus co-founder and former chairman Alan Klapmeier $10 million in a breach-of-contract lawsuit he brought against Cirrus. Alan and his brother, Dale, founded Cirrus in the 1980s. Both Alan and Dale Klapmeier declined to comment on this lawsuit. Alan Klapmeier was forced out of Cirrus in 2009 and is now the CEO of Kestrel Aircraft, a Wisconsin company developing a new turboprop single. The case remains in litigation.